The Animas Museum, a repository of everything historical in La Plata County, including its people, places and events, has been closed to in-person visits since the onset of COVID-19.
In the meantime, staff members have been busy creating online exhibits, now totaling 10 with more to come, said Jeremy Foote, president of the board of directors.
One of the first online exhibits was produced this spring in response to the national attention on the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. The Animas Museum’s exhibit focused on the 1918 pandemic, from a local perspective.
The museum also digitized the Peterson House exhibit, recently honored with a Josephine H. Miles Award from History Colorado.
Carolyn Bowra, a volunteer, said the exhibit allows people to “virtually wander, as if you were in the building.”
A central mission of the museum is to provide educational opportunities for students about local history, and Bowra said the museum is working to digitize what is usually offered to students on field trips.
Life as a small museumThe museum has navigated the pandemic without a director. Foote said the museum’s last director left in October 2019, and the search for a new one began as the museum was forced to close for COVID-19. The museum halted the search because it did not want to hire someone when programming was curtailed so significantly, he said. Foote noted hiring a director for a part-time position is no easy task.
“Locating directors in this area is challenging, especially with small museums with limited budgets, like us,” Foote said.
Foote said through the Paycheck Protection Program and other sources of funding, the museum has been able to keep its small staff. Foote also noted one silver lining of the closure: The museum has been able to focus more energy on applying for grants to increase funding.
According to a recent survey by the American Alliance of Museums, one third of museum directors in the United States fear the effects of COVID-19 will force their museums to close permanently.
Citing the survey, Foote said the museum is relying on community support to ensure the doors stay open. The museum kicks off its annual fundraising campaign in November, and Foote said he hopes the community will donate and recognize the value of a local museum.